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What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Q: What are some common types of baitfish used in ponds?

Steven – Johnstown, OH

A: If you stock game fish in your pond or lake, you better know your baitfish. Used as food for larger predatory game fish, these small swimmers are typically common species that breed rapidly. They’re easy to catch, easy to supply and easy to stock.

Freshwater baitfish include any fish of the minnow or carp family, sucker family, top minnow or killifish family, shad family, and some fish from the sculpin or sunfish family. Some common types that you’ll see in a recreational lake include fathead minnows, golden shiners, creek chub and white suckers. Let’s learn more about these specific types of fish and how to fatten them up for your bass and trout.

Fathead Minnow

The fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) is a species of temperate freshwater fish whose natural geographic range extends throughout North America. The golden, or xanthic strain known as the rosy-red minnow, is a very common feeder fish sold in the United States. In the wild, the fathead appears dull olive-gray with a dusky stripe extending down its back and side. These guys will eat just about anything, and they prefer a water temperature of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH range of 7.0 to 7.5. Its main predator is the northern pike.

Golden Shiner

The golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) is a cyprinid native to eastern North America. In the wild, these bait fish grow to 3 to 5 inches long and have dark green to olive body with a silvery white belly. They prefer quiet, weedy waters and are fairly tolerant of pollution, turbidity and low oxygen levels. They can tolerate temperatures as high as 104 degrees F – which is unusually high for a North American minnow – and they nosh on zooplankton, insects, plants and algae. Predators include trout and bass.

Creek Chub

The creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) is another type of minnow that’s found in the eastern United States and Canada. Growing up to 6 inches, they typically have a dark brown body, sometimes with brown spots, with a white lateral line. These hardy bait fish, which prefer water temperatures between 35 and 90 degrees F, gravitate toward weedy areas and prefer stream or river environments rather than lakes. They’ll gobble just about anything – including fish, insects, larvae and vegetation. Predators include trout and northern pike.

White Suckerfish

White suckerfish (Catostomus commersonii) are found in small streams, rivers and lakes in the Midwest and east coast of the United States. Reaching lengths between 12 and 20 inches, the white sucker has a dark green, gray, copper, brown or black-brown body with a light underbelly. They’re bottom feeders, and they’ll use their fleshy lips to suck up bottom sediment and other organisms that live there, including small invertebrates, algae and plant matter. Predators include walleye, trout, bass, northern pike and catfish.

Using Baitfish

When it comes to using bait fish, you have two options: stock your pond with them and keep a separate supply on hand to use when you do some fishing.

To stock your pond with bait fish, purchase a supply from your local sports shop or pet store and introduce them to your pond or lake after acclimating them. Be sure to provide a fish habitat for them, like one of the Honey Hole Attractor Logs, Shrubs or Trees, so they can safely reproduce (and fatten up!) and keep the population thriving.

In addition, grow bait fish in a separate tub or tank for use when you’re fishing. Be sure to keep the water cool and fresh to reduce stress, and keep the oxygen levels high with a bubbler. They might be able to tolerate less-than-ideal conditions, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be without their O2!

Pond Talk: How do you stock your pond with baitfish?

Create Habitat for Baitfish - Pond King Honey Hole Fish Attractor Log

I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish?

Q: I’ve been told I should encourage weed growth for a good fish population. Won’t that cause an unhealthy pond for the fish?

Dave – Gary, IN

A: Fish love weeds. The growing greenery and roots create a healthy ecosystem, help to naturally filter the water, and provide home-grown food for your pond inhabitants. When weed growth isn’t happening, the water tends to get murky and cloudy, and weak invasive plants tend to take root – neither of which benefits your fish. Aquatic weeds, when they’re well managed, are a good thing for your finned pals.

If a thriving fish population is what you’re after, we have some tips and tricks to share. In addition to encouraging some controlled natural weed growth, here are some ways to grow your fish numbers via an artificial fish habitat.

  • Bump Up the Bait Fish: Bait fish, including fathead minnows, golden shiners and threadfin shad, feed your game fish – so you should create a healthy ecosystem for them as well. Natural weeds work, but so do artificial fish habitats like our Pond King Honey Hole Shrub, Tree and Fish Attractor Logs. Thanks to an easy-to-assemble dense-cover dome made from long-lasting polyethylene tubing, these habitats provide ample space for algae and egg attachment, and promote the survival of young fish.
  • Plan Fishing Spots: One of the best features of using an artificial fish habitat is that you can position it wherever you want in your pond or lake and fish through it without snagging – so why not plan some ideal fishing spots while encouraging a healthy bait fish and game fish population? Experts recommend placing three of the same type of fish habitats in triangular clusters about 18 inches apart, near spots that have a sharp contrast in water depth or near a floating dock or pier.
  • Go Deep and Shallow: Because bait fish prefer spawning in shallow habitats and game fish prefer hanging out in deeper areas, use the Honey Hole Shrub or Honey Hole Log in the shallows and the Honey Hole Tree in water more than 6 feet deep. The 32-inches-tall-by-6-feet-wide shrub imitates a natural weed bed, while the 6-feet-tall-by-7-feet-wide tree mimics natural fish cover and attracts game fish like bass and crappie. In areas deeper than 15 feet, you can easily suspend the tree off the lake bottom by attaching a length of rope tied to a weight.
  • Aerate and Circulate: Of course, providing adequate aeration with an Airmax® Aeration System will ensure a healthy ecosystem for your fishes, too. The oxygenated water circulates throughout the water column, delivering that life-sustaining O2 to all of your lake’s inhabitants.

Both game and bait fish need a comfortable environment to thrive, and Fish Habitats make it easy for you to create an ideal ecosystem for them.

Pond Talk: How do you create a healthy sub-surface ecosystem for your game and bait fishes?

Create Habitat for Your Fish - Pond King Honey Hole Fish Attractor Log

I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass?

Q: I know bass are good predator fish to put in a pond, but does it matter if they are largemouth or smallmouth bass?

Joe – Alhambra, IL

A: Bass – both largemouth and smallmouth – make excellent predator fish. These strong, scrappy guys keep your bluegill population in check. They chase frogs, eat crustaceans and snails, and even catch unsuspecting birds and rodents like small muskrats. They’re a definite asset in your pond or lake.

These two fish cousins, however, have their differences. Read on to learn which is better suited to your pond or lake.

Distinct Differences

Though they’re both species of fish in the sunfish family, largemouth and smallmouth bass have different physical characteristics. The largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, sports a big grin that extends way back beyond its eye, while the smallmouth bass, Micropterus dolomieu, has a smaller smile that reaches only to the middle of its eye. They also differ in their color and color patterns; the olive green largemouth has dark blotches of scales that run horizontally down its flank, and the brassy brown smallmouth has dark scales that run vertically.

Happy Habitats

These freshwater fishes both thrive in lakes, ponds and rivers, but each species has its preference. Largemouth bass favor crystal clear lakes with 2 to 6 feet of water, and sandy shallows and abundant rooted aquatic plants for spawning. They flourish in warmer water – even enjoying 80 to 90 degree temperatures in the summertime.

Smallmouth bass, however, are primarily river dwellers that like to hang out around pea-size to 1-inch-diameter gravel for spawning. They’ll tolerate lakes and ponds, but they like the steady current and higher rate of dissolved oxygen it provides. They also like water temperatures a bit cooler; anything warmer than 90 degrees F is lethal to smallmouth bass.

Food for Thought

These fishes also have different tastes in food. Largemouth bass aren’t too picky. They’ll gobble through a variety of foodstuffs, from Game Fish Grower Food to smaller fish like shad, perch, bluegill and sunfish. Smallmouth bass, however, stick to the bottom of the lake or river and nosh on crustaceans, insects and smaller fish.

Potential Pondmates?

Because both these guys are fun and challenging to fish, it would be fantastic to have both species in your pond or lake, wouldn’t it?

Large- and smallmouth bass can live together, but it takes the help of an attentive game fish manager to make that happen. The general consensus from most experts is that the largemouths will typically replace smallmouths in smaller pond settings unless subadult or adult smallies are introduced annually. Even if you provide an ideal spawning environment for them, the largemouths will still edge them out.

Bottom line: You’re better off with the largemouths. They’re easier to keep, and they adapt more readily to a pond- or lake-type environment.

Pond Talk: What types of game fish do you have in your pond or lake?

Promote Rapid Fish Growth - The Pond Guy® Game Fish Grower Fish Food

People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too?

Q: People ice fish on lakes, but can you ice fish on a small pond, too?

Ron – Galesville, WI

A: Absolutely! Ice fishing on a small pond can be just as rewarding as ice fishing on a lake – particularly if it’s stocked with bass, bluegill and perch. Here are five tips for making this wintertime sport safe and enjoyable.

  1. Partner Up: Whether you’re ice fishing on a huge lake or a small pond, always fish with a partner. Venturing out on the ice is never 100 percent safe, so have someone there to watch your back and lend a hand in case of emergency. Also be sure to have a Life Ring and first aid kit easily accessible. Better to be safe than sorry!
  2. Check Ice Thickness, Quality: Before heading out, check the thickness and quality of the ice. It should be at least 4 to 5 inches thick and ideally composed of solid, blue ice rather than white, brittle ice or ice with cracks or trapped air bubbles. Here’s a quick primer that explains how to check the integrity of your ice.
  3. Tackle Box Ready: Make sure you have the right equipment on hand, including small reels or ice rods, jigs and a variety of bait. In addition, pack your fish finder, auger and any other tools you’ll need to track down and hook those finned beauties.
  4. Location, Location, Location: When the hunt is on, find your fish with a fish finder or pick a deeper, sheltered area where fish would most likely be and drill a hole with an auger. To make this fish-finding task easier next year, consider positioning several Fish Attractor Logs in shallower areas of your pond. The 4-foot polyethylene logs with flexible 2-foot limbs create a perfect habitat for the fish – and a perfect spot for catching them.
  5. Timing is Everything: The best time to fish is early in the morning or late at night when the fish are out and about, searching for food. If you haven’t caught anything after 15 minutes, try a new hole or offer the fish a different type of bait.

Ice fishing on a smaller pond or lake is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors – even when the weather is less than ideal. Have fun, be safe and fish on!

Pond Talk: What kind of bait do you use when ice fishing on your pond or lake?

Create Habitat for Baitfish - Pond King Honey Hole Fish Attractor Log

How can I create a good environment for my fish to spawn? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: How can I create a good environment for my fish to spawn?

Q: How can I create a good environment for my fish to spawn?

Darren – Salyersville, KY

A: A little candlelight, some smooth jazz playing in the background, a private spot beneath the water hyacinth … sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well, when you’re creating an ideal spawning environment for your game fish, they really need little more than the right set up. The key is knowing what that set up should be – and here’s where to start.

  1. Know Your Fish: Do you know what kinds of fish live in your pond or lake? Before you begin to prepare your fishes’ love nest, you need to know what kinds you have, as different species have different needs. For instance, a spawning Bluegill prefers water temperatures that are 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and some gravel or sand substrate for nest-building purposes. Check with your region’s fisheries and wildlife department for more information about fish common in your area.
  2. Adjust the Environment: Once you know the type of fish you have and their preferred setting for spawning, recreate that environment. In a large lake or pond, you won’t be able to adjust the ambient water temperature, but you can use an aerator to be sure you’re giving the fish enough oxygen, add gravel in the shallow areas and provide hiding spots, like the Porcupine Fish Attractor Spheres, to protect the fish and their young fry. If they feel comfortable, they’ll be more likely to get in the mood for love.
  3. Add Safe Havens: Finally, create some specific areas for spawning fish. Bluegill, for example, will appreciate the Pond King Spawning Discs, which are 20-inch concave poly discs that resemble nests where the fish can deposit their eggs. Artificial habitats, can provide escape areas for smaller fish when placed in water 3 to 4 feet deep. Aids like these also provide a spot for algae – a.k.a. fry food – to flourish.

When you want to set the mood for your finned friends, follow these three simple steps. You’ll create a spawning friendly environment and a lake full of healthy, happy game fish.

Pond Talk: How do you encourage your game fish to get frisky?

Increase Fish Hatching Rates - Pond King Spawning Discs

Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?| Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q:Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Q: Will my fountain be enough to keep my fish safe this winter?

Holly – Gorham, ME

A: If your pond freezes over in the winter, a fountain won’t do you or your fish much good. It’s not designed to be run or left in the pond during icy conditions. The ice can damage the float or create a barrier that prevents water from passing through the spray nozzle. That could cause the motor to run dry and stop working. And that’s not good.

Instead, we recommend completely removing your fountain and a run a bottom diffused aeration system instead.

Before the Ice Forms

Autumn is the perfect time to remove the fountain from your pond before the ice forms. When unplugging the motor and pulling it ashore; inspect the cords, motor and lights for any damage. After sitting in a pond all summer, chances are you will have to clean the fountain and lenses from any algae, build up or debris. Once your fountain is ready to be stored, place it in doors until spring.

Below the Surface

Now that you have removed the fountain from the pond, it is a good idea to protect both your fish and boating dock from ice damage by adding an aeration system. Aeration keeps the oxygen levels up and the water circulating. Depending on how close the diffuser plates are to the surface or dock, aeration can also keep a hole open for gas exchange, and provide a place for ducks to gather when everything else is frozen over.

Keep your fish safe and happy this winter by giving them surface and subsurface aeration. They’ll appreciate it more than just your fountain!

Pond Talk: How much aeration do you have in your pond or lake during the winter?

Shade & Prevent Damage From Winter Ice - Airmax (r) Shallow Series (t) Aeration Systems

What is supercooling? | Ponds & Lakes Q&A

Q: What is supercooling??

Q: What is supercooling?

Aloma, Warroad, MN

A: Supercooling is uncommon, but it can occur in lakes and ponds, particularly in the northern states. Here’s what you need to know about it and how to prevent it from happening.

In the winter time water stratifies in pond and lakes without proper aeration when surface temperatures are extremely cold, creating what’s called a thermocline. A thermocline happens as warmer water about 39°F or so – sinks to the bottom, while colder water about 32°F or so – rises to the top. Very little mixing of the layers occurs, particularly in calm weather.

Supercooling could become an issue if you’re running a surface aeration system in shallow ponds with fish. The fish prefer to stay on the bottom of the pond in the warmer pockets of water during the winter. They’re in winter-hibernation mode, and all they want to do is be in a stress-free spot until spring.

As the aerator circulates the warmer water with the cooler water at the surface, the overall temperature could drop. In extreme cases when the temperatures are well below 0°F, the water temperature can actually drop below its freezing point without becoming a solid – a rare process known as supercooling.

If the water gets too cold, your fish have nowhere warm to go. Living without their warm hangout spot could compromise their oxygen supply and immune systems, making them vulnerable to parasites and diseases.

The best way to deliver oxygen to your fish is with a bottom diffused aerator, like an Airmax® Aeration System. You can keep it running without creating an inhospitable environment for your finned friends by simply moving your diffuser plates closer to the surface or turning half of them off.

If you relocate the diffuser plates to a spot that’s about half the depth of your pond or run only 50 percent of them, a pocket of warm water will remain for your fish at the bottom. You’ll continue pumping oxygen into the water and keeping a hole in the ice for gas exchange without having to worry about freezing your fish.

Pond Talk: What steps do you take to prevent over cooling or supercooling your pond?

Call (866) POND-HELP - Free Aerial Aeration Mapping Service

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